Rowland V. Lee

Active - 1921 - 1959  |   Born - Sep 6, 1891   |   Died - Dec 21, 1975   |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Adventure, Crime

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Because many of his films dealt with British themes or characters, some historians have incorrectly referred to Rowland V. Lee as a British director. In fact, he was born in Ohio, educated at Columbia University, and spent several of his early professional years as a Broadway actor. After a brief "intermission" as a Wall Street stockbroker, Lee entered films as a member of producer Thomas Ince's stock company. His showbiz career was interrupted again by World War I; afterwards, he returned to Ince, this time on the directorial staff. Lee's silent and sound output was varied if nothing else, embracing war melodramas, romances, musicals, westerns and horror films. He was obviously influenced by the "Germanic" school of the late 1920s, carrying over this impressionistic style into such sound films as Zoo in Budapest (1933), Love From a Stranger (1937) and Son of Frankenstein (1939). He functioned as producer on several of his films, notably the 1935 version of The Three Musketeers (a foredoomed effort, wherein Lee was denied the cast and production facilities he'd asked for), 1938's Service Deluxe, and 1939's The Sun Never Sets and Tower of London (the latter a marvelous example of how to do a Shakespearean film without one single word from Shakespeare). Inactive in films between 1945 and 1959, Rowland V. Lee made a comeback as producer of The Big Fisherman (1959), a splashy adaptation of Lloyd C. Douglas' book about Simon-Peter which suffered from threadbare production values, a largely uninspiring cast, and the blockbuster competition of another 1959 Biblical epic, Ben-Hur.

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